THE HANDSOME ACADEMIC AND THE WOMAN WRITER

My good friend José Francisco Fernández Sánchez, from the University of Almería, emails me to announce good news: the volume gathering together the complete short stories by Margaret Drabble, A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman, is just out (see https://www.amazon.com/Day-Life-Smiling-Woman-Complete/dp/0547550405). He’s the proud, happy editor. Congratulations!! José Francisco includes in his message a link to a radio interview with Drabble, in which the volume’s publication is discussed (https://www.npr.org/2011/04/24/135611071/stories-of-changing-english-life-in-smiling-woman). A delighted Drabble explains that “He wrote to me and he said, ‘I’ve assembled all your stories’ (…) and he edited the text, and he’d just done it out of pure love. (…). It was a bit like a fairy story, to find a handsome young man who really loved your work and wanted to see it in print.” I must smile, for he is handsome –and this is a fact, not an opinion. And yes, I can imagine how she must have felt, getting this marvellous token of admiration for her talent…
Here’s the funny thing: I dare not send the link with Drabble’s praise of José Francisco to our national AEDEAN email list for I’m not sure whether Drabble’s sweet comment will be welcomed by our academic peers. Will they sneer? Will José Francisco’s efforts be mocked by some envious academic, spurned by his or her idol? Ugly of me to suspect my own peers yes, I know, but I’ve seen worse… Still, I feel that he deserves much praise for what Drabble reads, correctly, as an act of ‘pure love.’ So, here’s my entry, to remind ourselves that what we do for academic reasons is often not so far from a fan’s passionate dedication. And it is often shared by other fans, as you can see from the rapturous reviews the volume has got from a handful of admiring readers at Amazon.com.
Of course, what I’m itching to say is that, inevitably, as a woman, I notice the gender issues raised by Drabble’s grateful praise of José Francisco’s homage. Fancy a male writer saying this of a female academic in our times… Yet, this is also the time when, finally, a male academic can kneel at the feet of a female writer and show truly felt admiration. This happens in the same week when, here in Spain, a fragile, 85-year-old Ana María Matute is finally awarded the third Cervantes prize received by a woman writer in 35 years. No wonder Nuria Amat complained that women writers working in Spanish are still ninguneadas (see https://www.uimp.es/blogs/prensa/2009/06/23/nuria-amat-critica-que-las-escritoras-hispanas-son-ocultadas-por-el-mercado-editor-la-academia-la-critica-y-los-lectores/ ).
So: handsome the man, yes, but even more handsome the gesture, the book. I just wish many other, male and female, academics would learn from the example and do more for the love of the women who write.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.